Flowers, flamethrowers return to Rainmaker Parade

The event brings a plethora of peculiarities to St. Albert.

Candy, cars, flowers and a big flamethrower will roll through the streets of St. Albert this month as the Rainmaker Parade returns after a two-year COVID gap.

Tens of thousands of guests will line the streets of downtown St. Albert on May 28 for the annual Rainmaker Parade, which kicks off the city’s long festival weekend. Past parades have featured clowns, candy, classic cars, cosplayers, a working train, and a vintage early 1900s funeral car.

“The crowd we draw is 20,000 to 30,000 people,” said parade chairman Larry Hughes — an estimate, as they’ve never done a formal count — and he usually packs both sides of the street.

Hughes said parade participants will gather along Liberton Drive and Muir Drive starting around 7 a.m. Saturday morning. The parade begins at 9:30 a.m. from the church parking lot entrance on St. Vital Avenue, with participants marching down Mount Royal Drive and Mission Avenue, crossing the Perron Street Bridge and past the parade judges in St. Albert Place before coming to a stop just past the St. Albert Curling Club. All of these streets will be closed to regular traffic during the parade, so Hughes advised drivers to find alternate routes.

Hughes said guests should expect elaborate dancers, bands, clowns and floats in the parade, as well as plenty of free candy handed out to children. (Organizers banned attendees from tossing candy to crowds seven years ago because children kept running into traffic to get the treats.)

The parade usually begins with a St. Albert Legion Color Party and two Rainmaker volunteers carrying the parade sign, Hughes said. The St. Albert Fire Department serves as the anchor for the parade, with the wail of their sirens signaling that the show is over (aside from the sweeper truck right behind them). Participants then gather at St. Albert Place for the Mayor’s Luncheon, during which judges will award prizes to the best entries in the parade.

While past parades have drawn up to 130 entries, Hughes said he wasn’t sure how many groups would participate this year, given recent economic hardship.

“I don’t expect a big turnout, to tell you the truth, but I hope I’m surprised.”

Fantastic floats

Gazette Historian Jeff Hansen wrote that the Rainmaker Parade began in 1966 with around 90 entries.

Riverside Honda’s Tony Viveiros has watched or participated in the parade since the 1960s. There was more emphasis on small sports teams and community groups back then, he recalls, and fewer elaborate floats. Edmonton marching bands were common, as were the Shriners on their tiny bikes.

Viveiros said his staff have been brainstorming ideas for this year’s parade and will likely line up a small column of classic and modern vehicles. At the last parade, staff dressed up as horses and carried a sign that read, “Save a horse, ride a Honda.”

“It’s kind of a fun event for our employees,” he said of the parade, and a way to be part of the community.

Shandrie Lewis, owner of St. Albert ReMax Professional, said she walked in the parade as a child to promote her father’s outdoor clothing store.

“I was dressed as a polar bear,” she said, and she and her friends handed out candy to the crowd.

Lewis said she and her fellow real estate agents would once again bring a hot air balloon blower to the parade, from which they planned to fire roaring pillars of orange flame.

“It’s really hot and noisy, so the kids love it.”

Lyn Reynolds said the Society of Friends of St. Albert Botanical Park is planning to have a truckload of sunflower flowers and costumes at the parade, and may have free seeds for guests. She called the parade a fun way to get out and meet people, especially after two years of the pandemic.

“It’s a parade! It’s just fun to do.

About Adam Motte

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